Miami Heat Stat Monkey Brief: Heat/Knicks (12/6/12)
If you're looking for the Knicks perspective on this game, go to Patrick Haneman's piece here: New York Knicks Stat Brief
After losing to the lowly Wizards, rated last by rankings subjective and stat-based alike, the Heat canâ€™t be excited about going up against the only team in the East that has matched their level of play so far this season in the New York Knicks. If you want to read about them, check out Patrick Haneman's piece from today. To read about the latest team to be bested by RGIIIâ€™s late game poise, read on.
Lebron vs Melo
Often matched up against each other, this battle will be pivotal in determining the outcome of the game. Last year, per NBA.com, this matchup didnâ€™t work out very well for SIâ€™s Sportsman of the Year. Lebron Jamesâ€™ scoring rate, field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, free throw rate, and assist rate were all notably lower than his averages for the season. He also committed fouls more frequently.
Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthonyâ€™s scoring rate increased with no dropoff in percentages compared to his average performance. Lebron will have to make the most of this tough matchup if he wants to prevent the Heat from losing back-to-back games for the first time this year.
In numberFire's Player Power Rankings, LeBron ranks #4 with a nERD of 19.0, meaning that a perfectly average team would be an amazing 19 games over .500 with LeBron as one of it's starters. Carmelo is no slouch either though - he's in the top 20, with a nERD of 9.2.
Playing Well Early
Setting aside the decisive victory over the Nets, four of Miamiâ€™s last five games have been against Milwaukee, Cleveland, San Antonioâ€™s Bench, and Washington. Based on overall season stats, Miami is considerably better than each of these teams. Iâ€™m not accusing Miami of letting up against unimpressive teams until crunch time, but in each of these games they trailed in the fourth quarter.
Perhaps the Heat would prefer to have all of their wins be of the comeback variety so that no one in the media accuses them of choking, but it seems to me that playing well before the fourth quarter would make these games easier to win.
Most of Miamiâ€™s defensive issues have plagued them the entire season. They donâ€™t defend threes well as opponents shoot 35.2% beyond the arc against them and few teams have as many threes attempted against them. They are an average team on the defensive glass and at causing turnovers, so they have no particular advantage in limiting scoring opportunities for opposing teams.
Finally, as Iâ€™m sure I will continue to state as long as Shane Battier is out, the defense is much worse without him, with the starting lineup featuring Rashard Lewis being especially dreadful. All these defensive issues will look that much worse against an offensive juggernaut in the Knicks who score 113.1 points per 100 possessions.